Unscrupulous contractors have taken advantage of the ability to work from home to engage in a game of smoke and mirrors with government agencies and other employers, sources say.
Senior sources in the IT industry believe they have evidence that some information technology contractors in Wellington have taken advantage of the ability to work from home to “double dip” on the public purse.
Contractors appeared to be being paid by more than one government agency and pretending to work for them at the same time, they said.
One said they had direct knowledge of five contractors “moonlighting”, including two cases of contractors pretending to work more than 80 hours a week for clients.
One software developer had contracts with three separate public sector organizations and was charging each of the agencies far in excess of $150 an hour for a total of more than 80 hours of their time, he said.
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That source said the practice had become possible as software development was a “dark art” and contractors were able to log on to multiple customers’ IT systems when working from home and appear to be doing work for each of them.
Employment contracts commonly prevented employees from taking on second jobs without notifying their employer, but that was not typically the case for contractors, he said.
Uber has had a separate battle on its hands since last month after four of its drivers were ruled to be employees.
Clamping down on the practice might be complicated by the fact that any customer who demanded “exclusivity” over a contractor’s time might risk being deemed to have instead created an employment relationship, he said.
Stuff is aware of some of the public sector entities alleged to have been cheated but does not have the information needed to verify the claims.
Another senior source in the industry backed up the claim of double-dipping and said they were aware some IT workers in the private sector had also taken advantage of home-working to subcontract their work to freelancers in eastern Europe and India at a small fraction of the rate they were being paid.
That practice had been exposed when those workers were asked to return to the office, he said.
Government official Laurence Pidcock, manager of NZ Government Procurement, said it could be favorable for government agencies to use contractors who worked on multiple assignments if they needed less than a full-time resource.
It could also be a favorable option for contractors seeking a variety of work or assignments, he said.
But Pidcock said it would be of concern if any contractors were billing the same hours worked to multiple contracts, or working unreasonable hours.
He said he was not aware of such concerns but would investigate any allegations it received.
The issue of IT workers taking multiple jobs has gained prominence in the United States in recent weeks after the chief executive of cloud software company Canopy reported in a LinkedIn post in October that he had fired two software engineers after discovering they still had jobs with former employers .
“This is not about side hustles or moonlighting. These were people holding down two, full-time synchronous jobs and lying about it – trying to be in two meetings at once,” he said.
US website BusinessInsider reported last month that credit reporting company Equifax had sacked 24 remote workers after finding they were juggling up to three jobs.